In a stunning press conference, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein announced today that special counsel Robert Mueller has indicted 13 Russian nationals for U.S. election meddling as a result of his investigation.
Although Americans became involved in their activities, there is no allegation in this document “that any American was a knowing participant in this illegal activity,” Rosenstein asserted.
Asked directly about references in the document to the Russians contacting unwitting members of the Trump campaign, Rosenstein said, “There is no allegation in this indictment any American had any knowledge” of the scheme.
Trump was briefed on the indictments before Rosenstein’s presser. He consistently has maintained the Russian-meddling probe is a “witch hunt” fabricated by Democrats to explain away Clinton having snatched defeat from the jaws of victory.
Rosenstein also said, more than once, there is “no allegation” the Russians’ activity “changed the outcome of the election.”
But, he warned,”this indictment serves as a reminder people are not always who they appear to be on the internet.”
Indictment returned by a grand jury in Washington named individuals directly connected to Russian ruler Vladimir Putin, including his “caterer”/Russian oligarch Yevgeny Prigozhin, who fronted for Russian intelligence, taking identities of Americans and posting online, to try to foment dissent. It alleges trying to depress minority turnout to hurt Clinton and help Trump. The document alleges the agency spent $1.25M a month to try to help get Trump elected by depressing support for Clinton.
Twelve of the defendants worked for a operation called Internet Research Agency LLC based in St. Petersburg.
Among the allegations in the legal document: at the height of election fever the defendants created false personae to purchase ads on U.S. social media, and that individuals connected to Russia communicated with unwitting members of the Trump campaign.
Among the accounts created was one called @TEN-GOP, to make it appear it was part of the Tennessee Republican Party; it got over 100K followers, including Trump counselor/surrogate Kellyanne Conway, who retweeted some of the account’s material.
A Tennessee TV station reported the actual state Republican Party tried, unsuccessfully, to get Twitter to take it down in September of 2106 and again in March and August of 2017. Twitter did suspend the account, but not until October of 2017 – by which point it also had been retweeted by Mike Flynn and Ann Coulter, among others.
Some of the Russians involved in the scheme came to the U.S. in 2014 to establish hundreds of accounts on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter, to make it appear they were controlled by socially-active Americans; they did so using fictitious and stolen identities and bank accounts, Rosenstein said.
They also purchased political advertising.
They paid Americans to promote campaigns and stage rallies, he said, and pretended to be engaging in “grassroot activities.” The Americans did not know they were communicating with Russians, Rosenstein stressed several times in his presser.
Their activity continued even after the election, he said. On one day, they staged two rallies in New York – one to support Trump and one to protest his election.
Mueller previously has indicted four members of Trump’s campaign as part of his probe including Paul Manafort, Rick Gates, Michael Flynn, and George Papadopoulos.